Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 28 2020 - Acts 9:1-25 – A life turned around

Saul the Pharisee had been present at Stephen’s stoning and had approved of his death. But the message Stephen had preached was going from strength to strength. Saul was intent on putting a stop to it. In his view, to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified by the Romans, was the Jewish Messiah was not only ridiculous, it brought shame on Judaism. This madness needed to be stamped out, and Saul was just the man to do it.

But he had reckoned without one small matter; Jesus had been raised from the dead and that made all the difference. God himself had owned Jesus as Messiah and had raised him to a place of power and authority. His resurrection from the dead meant that the age to come had broken into the middle of human history – the age of the Messiah, the age of the Spirit, the age when the Gentiles would come to share in all the blessings that God had promised to Abraham had now arrived. All of Saul’s thinking is turned on its head by his encounter with the risen Jesus.

And it’s not just his thinking that’s turned upside down; his life is turned around. The one who was intent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ becomes a disciple and an apostle, one sent by Jesus to proclaim his name among Jews and Gentiles. The one who came to destroy the Christian community in Damascus and root them out of the synagogues becomes their chief advocate, preaching in the synagogues and proving that Jesus is the Christ. Saul will now become the focus of Jewish opposition and persecution. How have the tables turned!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead changes everything. It did then and it does now. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17.

The book of Acts will soon focus on the developing and expanding ministry of the apostle Paul; he will occupy centre stage. But we should not miss the key role played by others in this drama.

First there is Ananias. He had heard that Saul the Pharisee was on his way to destroy the church in Damascus. Then, one day, the Lord appeared to Ananias in a dream, telling him that Saul had arrived and that Ananias was to go and meet him. Ananias’ initial response is, in effect, ‘Lord, you must be joking!’ Nevertheless he is obedient to the Lord’s command and goes. More than that, on finding Saul, he greets him as ‘Brother Saul’ and lays his hands on him. Through the ministry of Ananias, Saul regains his sight, is baptised and becomes part of the fellowship of Christians in Damascus. We know nothing else of Ananias, but he plays a key role in the life of Saul/Paul and of the developing spread of the gospel.

We may not feel that we could ever be a Paul, but we can be an Ananias. We can make it our aim to welcome those who have come to know Christ, no matter their previous history or reputation. We can own them as our brothers and sisters and seek to encourage them in going on with the Lord Jesus.

Risen Lord, continue that work of transformation you have begun in me. May my every thought be made captive to you and every part of my life be an act of service of you and of your kingdom. You gave yourself for our redemption; keep me from half-hearted devotion to you. Keep me also from passing quick judgments upon others. Help me to accept all whom you have welcomed into your family and to encourage them in serving you.

Peter Misselbrook